Pygmy Park was a short film created for the 48 Hour Film Project in New Orleans.
When the 48 Hour Film Project begins Friday evening, teams will have exactly two days to write, shoot, edit and turn in a film up to seven minutes long. The contest begins with teams drawing a genre from a hat, and they also get a prop, a character and a line that they must use in the film.
All completed films will be screened July 28 or 29 at the Solomon Victory Theatre at the National WWII Museum. One winning film will be screened at Filmapalooza, along with the winners from 48 Hour Film Project cities across the globe. The top 10 films from will be shown at the Short Film Corner in Cannes Film Festival in 2017.
Gambit spoke with two filmmakers who have participated in the 48 Hour Film Project competitions and are preparing for this weekend’s event: John Swider from Cool Cooperative, a nonprofit that teaches kids how to make films, and Justin Vaughn, a Paris-based filmmaker. See their work and read their interviews after the jump:
John Swider has competed in the 48 Hour Film Project for the past 10 years.
Gambit: You have competed in this competition for 10 years now. What keeps you coming back? Swider: I use it primarily to experiment with new techniques and try out new equipment and also to collaborate friends and fellow filmmakers. I really like the fact that we have a venue in New Orleans to showcase our talents.
How has the event been for you? It’s been fantastic. I love competing in it and it challenges every aspect of my filmmaking self.
What is the Cool Cooperative? It’s a nonprofit organization and what we do is we inspire low-opportunity youth in New Orleans through the magic of film. What inspires people these days is filmmaking. I mean most people sit around looking at their screens and we are showing our kids how to create content for those screens, so they are not just consumers, they are creators, cool creators.
How do you put together your 48 Hour team? Does it include kids that you work with at the Cool Cooperative?
The team is comprised of 8th and 9th grade students from Algiers. We are really fortunate this year: We have a great actor, Lance Nichols, who because of the nature of our team, really wants to make a difference and contribute his skills as well and help out our team.
What are some of the films that you have submitted in the past? Every year we have done something different. In the first three years, we practiced underwater cinematography with a film called, Alien Expose, and I did them in conjunction with my brother, Dr. Joe Swider.
A couple of years later, e experimented with aerial cinematography with a film called Grindhouse Day. We had a helicopter and we filmed it over City Park, which is pretty neat. So, every year we take out new equipment and take it out for a spin. You know, it’s really expensive to get people together to make a film but the 48 Hour Film Project, the way it’s designed, experts will come out and volunteer their time because the film will get made in 48 hours.
Since certain aspects like, the genre, a character, prop and a dialogue that must be used in the film, are not revealed until the kickoff event, how do you prepare the team?
For the actors, the key is to get the best ones possible, since you don’t have those scripts ready ahead of time and that way they can bring their best right out of the gate. So, for 48 Hour, even though it is great for people to try on new characters, there isn’t enough time to make sure that you have great acting, unless you start off with great actors.
What do you think about the competition in general? I think the fact that it’s the largest extreme film competition on planet Earth, we are lucky to have it here in New Orleans; and the fact that there several thousand people that are going to be participating just in New Orleans, it’s a pretty big deal. If you added all the cast, crew and all the other supporters, in terms of location and food, it’s a lot of people involved. So, it’s really good for a film city like New Orleans because a lot of times, it’s really hard to get people together to make a movie but the 48 Hour kind of gives us an excuse to get together and make a fun film. As a professional, I’ll tell you this: I watch other people’s 48 Hour films to see who I want to hire in acting roles or crew positions by the quality of the film they produce, so if anything 48 is almost like a calling card or business card for both cast and crew.
How many members are in your team? I will have around 15 or maybe a little less.
Louisiana native Justin Vaughn lives in Paris and has participated in both the New Orleans and Paris 48 Hour Film Projects. This is his fifth year competing in the New Orleans 48 Hour Film Project.
Gambit: What has your experience been like with 48-hour film project?
Vaughn: It’s a great learning experience. I’ve done it for the last four years. Every year I’ve come back learning more. I’m a potential actor, director, writer and editor but I try not to do it all. The 48 Hour Film Project gives me an opportunity to seek out new talent and try to expand my horizons.
What makes you keep coming back? In film, I feel like you’re never done learning. I’ve heard a lot of great filmmakers say, especially with the new technology and everything, how film is advancing in different facets. There’s always something to learn and try. I saw Birdman a couple of years ago, and I wanted to try to make film where I shoot the film and make it look like one frame. The concept throughout Birdman, it looked like it was one shot; it transitioned really well. So this competition is a great opportunity to experiment on a high level because you have a lot of industry professionals and I know a lot of guys who are based out of New Orleans, who do really good independent work at the 48 Hour Film Project.
How did you get into filmmaking? I wanted to be an actor since I was a kid and actually as early as watching Glory with Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman and a bevy of other great actors, but in Louisiana and especially in the socioeconomic climate that I was in, there weren’t a lot of opportunities for that so that was something I held on to as kind of a pipe dream. When I went to school at the University of New Orleans for Psychology, I saw a perfect opportunity — since the film industry was starting to boom in New Orleans — for me to jump right in. I graduated in May 2011 and I started working full-time in film in July 2011. A year and a half later, I became SAG eligible and I worked on Treme, which is an HBO series and that’s where I got the bulk of my film knowledge. After that, I worked on 20 different projects, just to learn and be on set. I didn’t go to film school, so I figured my film school was going to be on set.
Tell me about the team you will work with in this competition. I like to use new people or people who are really ambitious about the film industry. I have reached out to people who I have worked with in previous projects but a large bulk of the talent is new actors. I like to be being able to work with people that are really passionate because that passion rings out. At this point, I’m not in a position where I can pay a ton of people and I live abroad so a lot of times the talent that I find comes through Craigslist.